Region warned to brace for storms

Showers expected, system could spawn hail, tornadoes
Apr. 29, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Tornadoes struck the eastern part of the state Friday, while the central area had it slightly better with hail, thunderstorms and strong winds. But according to the National Weather Service, worse is on its way for the Central Carolina region.  

Today and Wednesday, the central part of the state is expected to receive the brunt of the storms passing through — including isolated tornadoes, flash flooding, river flooding, hail, wind and rain.

In Sanford, according to the National Weather Service, thunderstorms likely will begin today after 3 p.m. and continue through the night, with a chance that some could be severe storms. Wind speed will generally remain in the teens, although gusts could reach as high as 24 miles per hour.

"Several rounds of showers and thunderstorms will cross the Piedmont of central North Carolina Tuesday through Wednesday night," the National Weather Service reported in a hazardous weather outlook for a 20-county area stretching from Winston-Salem and Albemarle westward into the Triangle and several counties along the Virginia border. "A few of the storms will be severe, producing large hail, damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes. The severe weather threat appears greatest Tuesday night."

Lee, Chatham and Moore counties are included in the affected area, but the more dangerous parts of the storm system — including hail and tornadoes — are not expected to hit this area, according to forecasts.

However, Roger Millikin of Lee County Emergency Services said local officials and first responders are not discounting anything.

"You never know anymore," he said. "Up until [2011] we never had a tornado touch down [in Lee County], except to barely kiss the ground. That changed everything."

Over the weekend, Gov. Pat McCrory visited some of the regions hit Friday by the storm and tornadoes it spawned, and on Monday, he declared a state of emergency in four eastern counties to speed up relief and give residents greater protection from price gouging.

In preparation for this new round of storms, the state also listed some general tips for tornadoes and other inclement weather, including:

* Pay attention to forecasts, and get a battery-operated weather radio. Also sign up for severe weather alerts via text message or email.

* Make sure cell phones stay fully charged when possible, in case power goes out.

* In case of a tornado, know where the nearest safe room is ahead of time, and go there. If driving, don't try to outrun it. Get to shelter, or if that's not possible, get out of the car and lay down in a low-lying, flat area.

* After a storm, wear closed-toes shoes if going outside and watch for broken glass, exposed nails and downed power lines.

* Know the difference between a tornado watch (one is possible) and a warning (one has been spotted, so take shelter immediately).

Forecasts for Lee County predict approximately an inch of rain today through early Wednesday morning. By later on Wednesday, there's still a strong likelihood of showers and thunderstorms, although the chance for severe weather is lower.

Thursday through Saturday, the weather is expected to be cloudy or partly cloudy, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. By Sunday, however, the skies should be sunny again.